The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Essential Columbia french bread

  • Pin It
breadnerd's picture

Essential Columbia french bread

Wow is right! Mountaindog recommended this bread, and I have to agree it tastes fantastic! I haven't used Glaser's "Artisan Baking" very much, I think like mountaindog, it was a little too advanced for me when I got it, and then I learned from other books and it was left on the shelf. I also get stuck in ruts, and get lazy and ignore recipes with 5 hour rises, etc!


A couple of notes on deviation from the recipes. One, I just converted a seemingly happy and active wet starter to a stiff one, and it was taking a bit longer than 8 hours to triple in size. It's either the cool temperatures in my house, or I just hadn't refreshed it enough to encourage the beasties that like dry conditions. So, I used a little more preferment than recommended, AND I cheated and threw in a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I was on somewhat of a schedule yesterday, and wanted my rising times to be a little more predictable. Even so, I let the first proof go for almost 3 hours, and proofed the final loaves at least 2 hours. (The original recipe called for 4-6, and 3-5 I believe.) Oh and I used malt powder instead of syrup as that's what I had.


I made a fatter batard, a slightly skinnier loaf, and boule in my banetton. They were each around one pound unbaked. The crust is very crackly and crunchy, the crumb (though not as open-holed as mountaindogs) is creamy and lovely. The sourdough tang is nice but not overpowering. There are *very* small amounts of wheat and rye flour in this loaf, and a few tablespoons of toasted wheat germ (which smelled LOVELY), but these tiny amounts added so much to the final loaf.



All and all a relaxing new year's eve bake--I also made a chocolate cake which will definitely be hampering my healthy eating resolutions as it will take a week to eat it!  Oh well! 


mountaindog's picture

Wow, your loaves came out looking really lovely! I can never get mine to look that pretty, I still can't seem to get the slashing technique good yet. Your crust cross section looks great too. I agree about the flavors and maybe it is that small amount of wheat germ that really adds flavor.


As far as hole-i-ness, yes , my dough was very wet, it stuck to the bottom of my stand mixer bowl rather than cleaned it, but maybe that's why my loaves spread out sideways so much and were hard to slash neatly. I also made another batch for New Year's Eve dinner and it was good but not quite as good as my first batch, and I think it is due to not having retarted overnight in fridge this time. I will definitely try to plan better to leave time for an overnight retard next time.

breadnerd's picture

Your loaves looked great, that's why I was inspired to try the recipe! Maybe I'll try a wetter dough next time, though I'm happy enough with this. It seems like a great candidate for overnight proofing.

The Bread Alone book mentions adding bran back into white flours, but I usually just throw in a little wheat flour instead. Now I think I'll do both!

buh's picture

Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer is the best baking book I've ever read/used. The Tortano bread recipe is my all-time favorite.

mountaindog's picture

I just made another batch of the Thom Leonard's Country French Bread from the Glezer book again, but this time I did not use the stiff starter she calls for in all her recipes. I know stiff starters are supposed to last longer, but I find the wet starters are a little easier for me to maintain so I decided to just use my wet rye starter to make the levain and just used a bit less water and a bit more flour until the consistency seemed right but the total weight of the levain was correct for the recipe. The bread turned out great so I think I will continue to substitute the wet starters in levains calling for stiff starter. I'll try this method with another batch of Columbia tomorrow and see how it turns out.

breadnerd's picture

I find the wetter starter easier myself, and I also like the milder levain flavors (rather than the tangier ones that are supposed to be connected to the stiffer starters.


I am finding it interesting to try out the stiffer versioins this time around, so I'll do it again for the next batch of columbia, if only to follow the recipe exactly at least once!


I'm planning on firing up the mud oven tomorrow! I think I'll do Columbia, maybe a batch of ciabatta, and I'm not sure what else. We also might try dinner for the first time--(well, except for pizza) either a roast chicken or some kind of curry....


I've always wanted to try this recipe--this site was a great reference during my oven project and they have great photos :)


merrybaker's picture

That's great looking bread!  I'm glad to hear that your batter starter worked well, too.  I'd bake more of her recipes if they didn't call for the extra step of converting to a stiff starter.  (I keep mine at 100% hydration.)  Please keep us informed how the other recipes work out.  Thanks!

mountaindog's picture

Breadnerd, tell us if you think the stiff starter makes the Columbia and others better. After re-reading JMonkey's lesson on making sourdough more sour here, I'm now wondering if I did the bread a disservice by subbing a batter starter when the recipe called for a stiff one. On the other hand, I used an all-rye wet starter so maybe that should be sour enough anyhow. I guess it wouldn't hurt to make a stiff white/whole wheat mixed starter on hand in the fridge, what's one more starter! (My husband thinks the bread ingredients now need their own refrigerator, it's getting too crowded...)  --Mountaindog

sylvstr540's picture

I went home to IL for Christmas and spent most of the time in the kitchen with my dad. He is an excellent baker!  Check out my photos:

 We tried a couple of recipes from this site and they were great! 


tomsbread's picture

My attempt on Essential's Columbia but I think I deviated too much to call it as such. Nevertheless, the flavor was very good.

 More pictures in